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Trump Travel Ban; Dems Lay Out Demands; Senate Committee Suspends Rules; HHS And Treasury Nominations go to Full Senate; Interview with Rep. Jim Jordan. Aired 9:30-10a ET
Aired February 1, 2017 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:30:00] RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that's a very good question. Look, I -- the semantic fight seems to be like --
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Temporary stoppage?
BROWNSTEIN: Temp -- yes, I mean, it seems -- it seems -- it seems --
COSTELLO: It's time to look up synonyms.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, the semantics fight seems really beside the point because this immigration action, this ban, is part of a much broader offensive and initiative. I mean that has been almost -- it's understandable that this is the flashpoint. But the executive order that they promulgated in the first week on enforcement on undocumented immigrants envisions a much -- a greatly accelerated effort to deport people now in the U.S. There is a report -- there are reports in "The Washington Post" that there are further executive orders being circulated in the administration that would envision significant changes in legal immigration as well going forward.
Donald Trump, during the campaign, in a promise that was almost completely overlooked, talked about restricting future legal immigration to set essentially a limit on the share of the country that is foreign born. A standard we've never used before in our immigration policy. And in all of these ways, I mean you see kind of the Bannon vision being moved forward of a Republican Party that is fundamentally about kind of resisting the trends of globalization, both economically and demographically, and the -- and the extent to which the entire Republican Party is being put on that roller coaster and at risk in terms of the reaction to all of these ideas I think is underappreciated among many of the Republicans on Capitol Hill at this point.
COSTELLO: It's difficult to believe that the administration would move quickly on those things when all of these lawsuits are being filed against this travel ban. Four states have filed suit. Companies are supporting those lawsuits. And I'm talking about companies like Amazon, Expedia and Microsoft. Apple may file suit now. So, Errol, are they now taking those things into account by wanting to change the semantics and perhaps slowing down on what Ron just said?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think they're in the middle of some chaos of their -- and confusion of their own making. I don't know that this was really thought out. There's one theory that says that the chaos and confusion are a deliberate strategy. That while ten balls are up in the air, even if nine of them are going to crash to the floor, one or two things get through and the agenda gets accomplished one way or another.
The other style of thinking, which I'm more inclined toward, this that they really just didn't think this through. That they had no ideas the kinds of sort of variations that they were going to encounter. That they envisioned some notion of ISIS sympathizers infiltrating as if they were going into Greece, you know, on a crowded boat or something and they couldn't be more different. Our vetting process is entirely different. We're thousands of miles away. Fifty percent of the people are rejected anyway. We've got biometric retinal scans before you can come in here as a refugee. Completely different. So they threw something together. Everything we've heard sounds that it was scattershot. It was makeshift. It was done without any input from the people who had to implement it and this is what you get.
COSTELLO: Well, you know, I laugh about semantics, but semantics are important. Kellyanne Conway has now been put in charge of more, you know, managing the message here. So as the Trump administration rolls out more of these executive orders, might it be less chaotic?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Message discipline is important when you want to get your message out. When you've got nine people saying different things, it does look like disarray. So perhaps Kellyanne Conway deserves a lot of credit for getting the Trump campaign back on track. You know, perhaps she can do that with a communications strategy as well. If anyone can do it, it's probably Kellyanne.
COSTELLO: Do you agree with that, Ron?
BERNSTEIN: Carol, well, I would say real quick, I disagree a little with Errol. I think that -- that, obviously, there were a lot of chaotic elements to the implementation of this. But I think it very much fits in their core vision. I mean as Steve Bannon said to "The Washington Post" this week in an e-mail about Jeff Sessions, we are building a new political order. They believe they are kind of crashing the alignment of the parties and building a new party that is fundamentally hostile to the trends of globalization, both in trade and immigration. And the risk they are taking is that, as you see in the backlash, there are a lot of Americans who feel that these kind of insulars, kind of defensive nationalism ideas are a violation of American values.
The people at risk on that are the Republicans in white -- mostly in white collar districts. There are 23 House Republicans in districts that Hillary Clinton won. Almost all of them are white collar districts where this kind of initiative is much less popular than it is outside of urban areas, in blue collar districts. There are 23 Republicans in those districts. Democrats need 24 seats to take back the House. That is really what they are wagering with here. And I think that you -- we will see more in this direction because whatever they call it, a ban or not, this is fundamental to their vision of how they are realigning the parties and changing Republican policy and changing the definition of the Republican Party.
COSTELLO: OK, so what might happen? Because Republicans haven't exactly been overly vocal in talking out against this ban if that's how they feel. So what should we expect?
[09:35:02] LOUIS: Well, they're in a defensive crouch like much of the rest of the country is, frankly, trying to see how this is going to play out, but get the first polls back, find out what their constituents are saying back home, which is a good, responsible way to sort of approach something like this if they don't have any core values or don't care one way or the other or if they're not in one of the swing states that -- or one of the swing districts that Ron is talking about. So I think they're going to wait. We're not going to get much leadership out of them. And the White House is counting on that, frankly.
COSTELLO: All right, I have to leave it there. Jackie Kucinich, Errol Louis, Ron Brownstein, many things.
Still to come in the NEWSROOM, violence spiking in eastern Ukraine. Why President Trump's relationship with Vladimir Putin could soon be put to the test.
COSTELLO: All right, this just in to CNN. After delaying the votes for the Trump cabinet nominees, Steve Mnuchin and Tom Price, Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, well, they have a list of demands now.
Manu Raju is hot on the story.
[09:40:02] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol.
Yes, this letter just obtained by CNN, sent by the Senate Finance Committee Democrats saying they're actually not going to show up at a key committee vote. They're actually trying to deny a vote from happening on Steve Mnuchin's nomination to be Treasury secretary and Tom Price to lead the Health and Human Services Department. Laying out a series of demands. Demands that include Congressman Price is, quote, "inaccurate and misleading answers" to questions about his stock purchases. That is according to the Democrats' words, as well as they say Mr. Mnuchin's, quote, "inaccurate and misleading" answers to questions about an illegal process known as robo signing. This involving when Mr. Mnuchin was working with One West Bank, an issue involving foreclosures. They believe that on these two issues, Mnuchin and Price misled the committee during their sworn testimony.
Now, the Republicans strongly refute that. They think the Democrats are playing political games simply to try to deny Donald Trump from getting his cabinet in place, which is why -- one reason why that Democrats are not showing up at the Senate Finance Committee, not even today, when senator Orrin Hatch, the chairman of that committee, reconvening, trying to get a vote this hour on these nominees. But if no Democrat shows up, there's no quorum. That means there's no voting committee. That means the Senate can't -- the full Senate can't act. And that means that Donald Trump may have to install these two nominees through a recess appointment. Something not really seen -- not -- very rarely done, a maneuver. But -- so a game of political hardball here as tensions are flaring over Donald Trump's nominees, Carol.
COSTELLO: Oh, my goodness. OK, Manu Raju, many thanks. I know that was -- that was hard to understand because you know the workings of our government, they are hard to understand, but there are ways to stop things and apparently the Democrats have found another way.
I want to bring back Errol Louis and Ron Brownstein.
So, Errol, the Democrats are trying every which way, right?
LOUIS: Well, yes, hardball. I mean, as I mentioned before, Democrats under tremendous pressure from their activist base. Just last night here in New York City, as a matter of fact, there was a big march, and I mean hundreds of people who marched from downtown Brooklyn to the home of Chuck Schumer, the Democratic conference leader. And the message was, go in there and fight. No rolling over. No playing ball. No playing by normal rules in a Senate where the Republican majority frustrated the president on a Supreme Court nominee for nearly a year.
So they have no choice but to react to this. And I think that's what you're starting to see here. As well as substantively these are important issues. I mean the foreclosure crisis. The role that certain banks played and seemed to have gotten away with. The insider trading, which gets to the core of the conflict of interest questions that are surrounding both members of Congress and the Trump administration. This is not something they can afford to simply walk away from.
COSTELLO: Wow. So, Ron, it's interesting to me because, you know, Democrats, you know, not long ago were saying the Republicans were the obstructionist party, but they seem to be embracing that role right now.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. It's kind of the inexorable escalation of political hostilities. But, look, as we've said, it is extremely rare for cabinet officers to be rejected, cabinet nominees to be rejected by the Senate, especially when the president's party controls the Senate. I believe there have only been 13 cases in American history. There hasn't been one since John Tower (ph) in 1989, although others have withdrawn their nominations. There are -- there are several cases here with Betsy DeVos, the Treasury secretary, Tom Price at HHS, where you are pushing the absolute boundaries of what the president's party will accept because, I mean, there are serious questions about their -- in the case of Mr. Mnuchin and Tom Price about the accuracy of their disclosures to the committee, in Betsy DeVos' case about her understanding and knowledge of the issues under her domain at Education Department. So I mean we are really seeing how far, I think, party loyalty can be stretched to extend confirmation to all of these nominees. And, again, it happens very rarely, but these are cases that I think that are kind of pushing it to the -- to the brink.
COSTELLO: All right, Ron Brownstein, Errol Louis, thanks so much.
Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Jeff Sessions expected to become the next attorney general despite stall attempts from the Democrats. What Republicans have to say about that and the mounting opposition to Trump's travel ban, next.
[09:48:47] COSTELLO: All right. I want to take you to -- I'm sorry, where are we going? Tell me. Tell me, my great team. All right, the confirmation hearings are ongoing about Jeff Sessions, who wants to be the next attorney general. I thought we were going to show a live picture of that hearing right now. Manu Raju says the Democrats have thrown a wrench into things. He explained this complicated process the Democrats are using to stop the ball from rolling on Jeff Sessions. Well, something else has just popped up. Manu Raju is live to tell us more.
RAJU: Yes, that's right, Carol, this fight over the two controversial nominees, Steven Mnuchin to be the Treasury secretary, as well as Tom Price to be the Health and Human Services secretary, has come under intense scrutiny because of Democrats' stunning decision yesterday to boycott those proceedings. Now, in another extraordinary move, the Republicans just now voted to suspend the rules of the committee and send this nomination to the full Senate for further deliberations.
Now, why is this extraordinary? Because under the committee rules, it requires one Democrat to be present in order for the nominee to actually be voted on and be sent to the floor. And that can only happen before a confirmation vote and before Donald Trump gets his two nominees in place.
[09:50:06] But because of the Democrats' moves, Republicans are taking matters into their own hands, playing their own game of hardball, suspending the rules altogether. Now, Orrin Hatch, the senator who's chairing that committee, just said -- called these extraordinary circumstances. He said they had very precious few options. So he said with those concerns in mind, they're going to try to temporarily suspend the rules.
Now, Democrats did not show up to today's hearing because they want more answers from Mnuchin and Price specifically about things that they believe were not told correctly to the committee, were -- they believe they were misled by these two nominees during their sworn testimony. They sent a letter this morning demanding more answers. They're not going to get those answers. And as a result, Republicans are taking matters into their own hands because they have the majority. They're going to push these through and try to see if they can get confirmed in a matter of days. Tempers and tensions really flaring on such a dramatic move by Republicans taking matters into their own hands, Carol.
COSTELLO: All right, Manu Raju reporting live from Capitol Hill with extraordinary measures taken by the Republicans.
With me now to talk more about this is Congressman Jim Jordan. He's a Republican from Ohio who serves on the House Judiciary Committee.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: Good to be with you, Carol.
COSTELLO: So what do you make of what Manu just reported?
JORDAN: Well, I mean, look, I think in large -- in a large sense the president should be given wide latitude when he nominates someone for a position. And if the Democrats aren't -- don't even show up for committee, I don't know that the Republicans had a whole lot of options left to do. So this seems appropriate for me to do this. What's frustrating is, most Americans are tired of these games. They just want us to come here and do what we told them we were going to do, and accomplish the things that they sent us here to accomplish.
COSTELLO: And I understand where you're going with that, but here's the thing, critics of Jeff Sessions, they're afraid he will not challenge President Trump on constitutional issues because he's such a Trump ally, right? And I know you're going to disagree with that, but can you reach out to those critics and assure them that checks and balances in place in this country will stand?
JORDAN: Yes, even vice president -- former Vice President Joe Biden said Jeff Sessions -- as long as he takes the oath to uphold the law, he should are confirmed, again, giving that latitude to the commander in chief. Never forget what we saw in the last Justice Department. We saw the subject of the investigation's husband get to meet with the attorney general just days before the subject of the investigation was going to be interviewed by the FBI. So to say that somehow Jeff Sessions, who is more political than what we had before, going to be too political to do his job, I think is laughable when you think about what we just went through the last eight years with Attorney General Holder and Attorney General Lynch.
COSTELLO: But, congressman, I will say -- I will say the country, at least half of it, maybe a little more than half, people are quite anxious about everything this new president is doing because things are moving so very fast. So why the hurry? Why not take the time? Why not allow Democrats to ask their questions and then move on that way? Wouldn't that settles down that half of the country who is adamantly opposed to everything Mr. Trump does at the moment?
JORDAN: No one -- no one's opposed to debate and dialogue and hearings, but --
COSTELLO: Well, yes, they are, because the Republicans pushed it through without any debate, right, just to get Jeff Sessions confirmed?
JORDAN: Only -- well, what matters is supported (ph). Only after the Democrats wouldn't even show up to committee to have the debate and have the vote. So my understanding is this -- the confirmations for these nominees are taking a lot longer than normally takes place when you have a new president come in and he sends his nominations up to the Senate for confirmation. So we've only got a handful -- I think five nominees who have actually been confirmed thus far. So when the president has to wait that long for the rest of them, that hurts the ability to get the things done what the voters sent us here to do.
COSTELLO: But, well, here's the thing. President Trump's inner circle did not inform you a travel ban was in the works, correct? I mean you serve the people of Ohio. Shouldn't they, through you, be part of such momentous decisions?
JORDAN: Well, no one's saying that, you know, tactically, strategically there could have been some things done a little differently on the rollout of this. But I do think it's consistent with the law and I do think it's consistent with what we passed last year, where 47 Democrats --
COSTELLO: But wouldn't you have liked to know this was happening? Wouldn't you have liked to know this was happening, as a lawmaker who is responsible for the people of the state of Ohio?
JORDAN: I mean that would have been fine, but I'm not disagreeing with the policy itself. I think it's a good policy, sound policy, consistent with the law. And, frankly, as I said, consistent with what we did a year ago when 47 Democrats voted with all the Republicans to pass legislation to do just what this executive order does.
COSTELLO: Yes, I understand -- I understand that part of it. I understand that part of it but the rollout was so chaotic it only added to the anxiety already present in the country. So wouldn't it have been better, had the Trump inner circle worked with members of Congress, like yourself, so that you would know how to explain it to your constituents?
[09:55:02] JORDAN: Look, hindsight's wonderful. You can Monday morning quarterback these things. Maybe it would have been. Probably it would have been. But the fact is, this is a new administration. They're in their first few weeks. Sometimes you're going to have these kind of situations take place. The underlying policy is what's important.
COSTELLO: So it's no big deal?
JORDAN: The legality of the underlying policy -- well, of course it's -- it's --
COSTELLO: Four states -- four states have filed lawsuits.
JORDAN: It's an important policy.
COSTELLO: Apple may file a lawsuit over this travel ban. And we're still arguing about what to call it, by the way. Is it a ban? Is it not a ban? What exactly is it? There is still confusion.
JORDAN: Yes. It's a policy consistent with the policy we passed over a year ago that 47 Democrats in the House of Representatives supported. Unfortunately, President Obama said he would veto it. But this -- it's consistent with that. And it's just a temporary pause on making sure we can thoroughly vet people before they get here. Remember, ISIS said they're actively trying to exploit this law to get bad guys into this country.
COSTELLO: I get that part. Honestly, I get that part.
JORDAN: And -- and I would -- I would --
COSTELLO: I'm just saying that wouldn't you rather the president confer with lawmakers who represent the -- you know, represent the people?
JORDAN: We would prefer --
COSTELLO: Right. That's all.
JORDAN: We would prefer consistency. And how about -- how about when the Cuban Adjustment Act, at the end of the Obama administration, where was the outrage from the press? Where was the outrage from the -- from the left and from the Democrat Party --
JORDAN: When the president unilaterally changed that policy from people fleeing a dictator to come here? We didn't see it there. But now we see it --
COSTELLO: Well, President Obama is no longer president.
JORDAN: We see it now with Mr. Trump.
COSTELLO: All right, I'm going to have to interrupt you, congressman, and I apologize. Senator Orrin Hatch is holding an impromptu press conference. I would suspect because in the light of what just happened. Let's listen.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: And -- and they should be ashamed. They should be ashamed.
QUESTION: Senator, what does this say about the --
HATCH: That's all I'm going to say.
COSTELLO: All right, as you see, Senator Orrin Hatch saying the Democrats should be ashamed. Actually yesterday he called the Democrats "idiots" for blocking the confirmation hearings of at least two of Trump's nominees.
I'll have much more on this after a break. Stay with me.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
[10:00:03] COSTELLO: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.
We do begin with breaking news. Faceoff on Capitol Hill and boy it's getting ugly. Democrats and Republicans clashing over President Trump's cabinet nominees. The news is fast